Planning, execution expertise keep a large utility on track to complete a multi-year smart-grid transformation
Midwestern energy delivery company to realize benefits from new technology
Date : June 26, 2014
West Monroe's planning, execution expertise help keep a large utility on track to complete a multi-year smart-grid transformation.
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Moving the meter
By the mid 2000s, utility industry pioneers were initiating the movement toward adoption of smart grid concepts and technologies. Not long after, our client—a large Midwest US energy delivery company that provides electric service to four million customers—took its first steps in that direction with a smart-meter pilot program. Two years later, anticipating a favorable regulatory outcome that would provide substantial funding for implementing a smart grid across its service territory, the utility began preparing for deployment. For assistance with an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) assessment and pre-planning exercise, the utility turned to West Monroe Partners, which offered significant insight and expertise through its involvement in other smart-meter deployment projects.

Setting the stage for transformation
West Monroe’s initial assessment guided the utility through the process of considering the specific business requirements as set out in the law and converting these into concrete performance indicators and action items for some two dozen departments across the enterprise—from field functions to the call center. The plan, created in less than three months, outlined what each department would look like following the 10-year smart-meter transformation, as well as the steps required to get there. In parallel, the utility engaged West Monroe Partners for assistance with an IT pre-planning initiative that included an IT organization assessment, design, and impact study for the EIMA program.

Enabling progress
Impressed by the quality and depth of West Monroe Partners’ work, the utility quickly began to extend the firm’s involvement once it received a favorable regulatory ruling in late 2011. Today, West Monroe Partners is providing substantial program management, technical, and other support for the utility as it:

  • Deploys four million smart meters within a seven-year period, as outlined in its regulatory agreement
  • Executes a five-year distribution automation program, also in accordance with the regulatory agreement
  • Advances a five-year telecommunications initiative to replace analog circuits with digital technology ultimately reducing costs and improving substation communication
  • Completes a variety of other projects vital to its grid-modernization or other business goals—ranging from acquisition due diligence to distributed generation

Executing on pace
With the support of West Monroe Partners, the utility not only created clear and comprehensive plans for achieving its smart-grid goals; it is executing the complex, multi-year transformation successfully—on schedule, on budget, and with a high-degree of internal and consumer support.

Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) projects

  • Lead development and execution of the AMI program management office (PMO), including scope, schedule, budget, risk/issue management, and document management
  • Develop and execute IT-related AMI PMO functions; e.g., new MDMS, AMI head-end upgrades, and systems integration activities
  • Lead status, risk/issue, leadership, and steering committee meetings used to manage and govern program
  • Perform strategic analyses related to high-bill mitigation tactics, opt-out/delay list approaches, installation labor alternatives, meter-locking tactics, and geographic deployment planning
  • Lead development of the AMI/OMS road map
  • Support the utility’s AMI deployment team in planning meter installation activities; develop training and
    on-board meter installation vendors
  • Lead development of the AMI deployment dashboard
  • Perform scenario analyses for the AMI program based on different capital allocations
  • Lead development of the initial AMI plan filed with the ICC; support subsequent updates to reflect progress and updated metrics
  • Perform business process documentation and redesign activities for several key AMI functions
  • Develop and implement several IT enhancements and new databases to support interim needs
  • Support AMI customer experience efforts; support customer communication/outreach plans and materials

    Distribution automation projects

    • Perform program management for the design, deployment, and cut over of the distribution automation communication solution, including cyber security, WiMAX backhaul, and fiber backhaul
    • Develop business processes to maintain the new smart-grid telecommunications systems
    • Lead assessment and update of cyber security procedures for smart-grid field equipment and communications

    Telecommunications projects

    • Perform an assessment to create an integrated utility network operation center and processes for the tier-1 (backbone) and tier-2 telecommunication systems
    • Create a business case and high-level design for replacing 2,000 analog circuits currently used in substations for teleprotection, SCADA, fire alarms, and burglar alarms
    • Manage the 4.5 year execution of this program

    Other projects

    • Perform due diligence of a potential acquisition target for the utility’s parent company
    • Create an online application process for distributed generation to reduce errors and increase efficiency for processing interconnection to distributed generation such as rooftop solar
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